“Perhaps when you enter the theater with a closed mind, that’s all you see reflected.”

Week of July 20, 2006

Stage, June 15, 2006

Duck Down, Dennis Brown!

Patently prejudiced: Ah yes, time for another round of Stages-bashing. It's a shame Dennis Brown disliked this production of Cabaret so much. Others, both loyal patrons and reviewers, found it thought-provoking and inspiring. After all, the purpose of Cabaret is to reflect the audience's views back at themselves. Perhaps when you enter the theater with a closed mind, that's all you see reflected.

As a matter of fact, many of us at Stages understand what the show is about. We all do our homework, and the ability to quote from Hal Prince's memoir does not an informed reviewer make. Without lowering myself to adding footnotes, suffice to say that everyone on the Cabaret artistic staff did their homework on prewar Berlin, on actual cabarets of that time and on the tourist culture of Europe in the '20s and '30s.

The "scribbles" on the floor? Period propaganda posters decrying the Jews. Would Mr. Brown have preferred they were in English to avoid the confusion? Mr. Brown also expressed concerns over the "ridiculous costumes" as if all residents of Berlin, regardless of their former economic status, were required to give up all their possessions at the end of World War I and dress and live in rags for the next twenty years.

A negative review is one thing. No one in professional theater can have so thin a skin that one negative review is cause for distress. When the review makes personal attacks and questions an theater's artistic integrity based on faulty assumptions, it is irresponsible. You don't like the show. Fine. Please don't attack the entire Stages artistic, technical and administrative staff on your way to making your point. The assumption that we're a bunch of bumbling idiots without any knowledge of theatrical or world history is offensive.

Funny thing to be so patently prejudiced in a review of Cabaret. Too bad Mr. Brown couldn't have taken a few of Cabaret's lessons home with him. Melanie Drews, assistant production manager, Stages St. Louis

Childishly scathing: As a theater reviewer for PlaybackSTL.com, I fully understand that Mr. Brown is entitled to his own opinions when writing reviews. However, after reading his scathing review of Cabaret, I feel compelled to voice my opinion.

After seeing the production (the same night as Mr. Brown), I cannot disagree more with what he had to say about the show. His criticisms seem more mean-spirited than informative. He disregards the fact that Stages St. Louis can interpret the musical as they see fit and gigs them on not presenting the play the way he thinks it should be told.

I am sorry if Mr. Brown was offended that Stages didn't make the show ultraseedy, but it was up to director Michael Hamilton — yes, Kevin-Kline Award-winning Michael Hamilton — to present the show as he saw fit.

Which leads me to wonder what personal issues Mr. Brown may have against Michael Hamilton. Whining about how Stages has only used one director for their illustrious twenty-year run confused me. Not to sound trite, but when something isn't broken, there's no need to fix it. Mr. Hamilton is an extremely talented director who should be taken seriously despite Mr. Brown's childish stab at the man's reputation.

While it is true that some companies use multiple directors, I enjoy the fact that when I go see a production at Stray Dog Theatre I know I am going to see an amazing production directed by Gary F. Bell; or when I go to a New Line Theatre show I know I am going to be entertained by Scott Miller's latest production. These two sensational directors, along with Michael Hamilton, have a high level of quality that I have come to depend upon.

Regarding the individual attacks on the actors, one look at the résumés of the cast goes to prove that they are skilled performers who deserve respect. While it is apparent that we have completely opposite opinions of the production, I think the audience made it obvious with their thunderous applause that Stages has produced yet another hit.

I may be committing a professional faux pas by speaking against one of my contemporaries, but my outrage and frustration with Mr. Brown's poisonous review has left me no choice. Mr. Brown feels Michael Hamilton was "clearly the wrong person for this play." I can't help but feel that Mr. Brown was clearly the wrong reviewer for this musical. Jim Campbell, contributing writer, PlaybackSTL.com

 
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